Monday, May 26, 2008


I found this recent article in the Hankyoreh terribly disturbing:

The Hankyoreh launches campaign to support S. Korea’s foreign brides

More foreign migrant women are getting divorced, only to be bought and sold on an increasingly large domestic marketplace

» Southeast Asian migrant women relax at a shelter in North Gyeongsang Province in early May. An increasing number of foreign brides are getting divorced, only to be sold and purchased for remarriage.

An increasing number of foreign women who have come to Korea as brides are getting divorced. Many of these women are just one step removed from experiencing the same fate as other foreign women before them who have become the victims of violent acts committed by their Korean husbands committed suicide. Their lives are at stake. Sadly, this is just another portrait created by the barbaric acts committed in a society that buys wives for Korean men. In response to this crisis, The Hankyoreh, in conjunction with the Women Migrants Humanrights Center, has launched a campaign to support foreign women living in South Korea. The campaign will run for a month beginning on May 12.

The campaign aims to highlight the lives of migrant women who have come to be divorced in Korea. A considerable number of foreign women who have come to Korea through marriage usually do not return to their home countries and are forced to lead unstable lives, before and after their marriages fail. Many of them get remarried via the services of middlemen looking for a broker’s fee or find work in nightclubs or other places offering low wages.

The story of one 21-year-old Cambodian woman is representative of the increasing number of foreign women who are traded for money. The woman, who asked to remain anonymous, first came to Korea in July 2007, when she was greeted by her new 93-year-old father-in-law, an apple-grower in North Gyeongsang Province, and her 51-year-old husband. Before long, her hopes for a new life turned to despair. Her husband’s shabby house was full of piles of garbage that gave off a disgusting odor. She soon learned that her husband had a mental disorder and he behaved badly whenever he drank, which caused her to flee to a neighbor’s house to escape his drunken tirades. Her father-in-law expressed his regret about the situation, but said he could not let her go because he had paid such a huge sum of money to get his son a wife. He had borrowed ten million won (US$ 9,551) and paid it to a matchmaking service.

One day, a neighbor visited the house and advised the father-in-law to sell the woman for 5 million won. The father-in-law agreed. Another village resident, looking back on the time, said, “As the rumor that the woman would be sold for 5 million won spread, there were many volunteers who offered to take her cheaply.”

A pastor from a neighboring area introduced the father-in-law to a man in his 40s who wanted to take her in, but the clergyman said that the man could not pay more than 500,000 won for her. The woman’s father-in-law demanded a payment of at least 2 million won, but when his offer was rejected, he attempted to take her to his house. The woman panicked and sought help at a center for foreign women in North Gyeongsang Province and in April, she was finally granted a divorce.

Now that she is free, she is getting more marriage proposals. She is in high demand because there are no additional commissions to be paid. The woman, however, still feels uneasy about remarrying in Korea. Han Guk-yeom, a representative of the Women Migrants Humanrights Center, said, “A fundamental problem is that Korean society thinks of migrant women who settle in Korea through marriage as ‘goods.’” They remarry for cheap commissions or get jobs in “places of entertainment.”

Gwon Mi-ju, an official of the center, said, “Many migrant women can be seen at massage parlors or noraebang (singing rooms) in local areas and I think that most of them are divorcees.”

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